There are some risk factors for heart disease you can't control, such as age, gender and genetics. For example, people older than 45 have an increased risk of heart attack. Men of any age and postmenopausal women also have a greater risk than younger women. Having a family history of heart disease is another factor that increases risk.
Fortunately, there are several factors you can control through lifestyle changes or medication, to reduce your chances of experiencing a heart attack.
You've heard it before; nicotine kills. Using tobacco increases your risk of heart disease, and the likelihood that you would not survive a heart attack. If you think it's too late for you to quit, think again. According to the U.S. Surgeon General's report on tobacco, within just one year of quitting, your risk for coronary heart disease drops to 50 percent. It continues to decrease with time until it becomes the same as someone who has never smoked.
Stay active, eat healthy
The two most important things you can do for your heart, and every other part of your body, is to eat healthy and stay active – preferably 30 minutes of physical activity per day. This is important not only to lose weight, which lessens the strain on your heart, but to maintain healthy blood sugar, blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels.
Having consistently high blood glucose levels may increase your risk of heart disease by causing your heart valves to not function properly, leading to tissue damage and risk of plaque buildup. High blood pressure makes your heart work harder, which eventually leads to damage in the heart, arteries and blood vessels. High blood cholesterol can cause the buildup of plaque in the arteries, which contributes to high blood pressure and may even cause a blockage, triggering a heart attack.
Get screened to know your risk
Lake Regional Health System will hold a cardiovascular screening 7:30 to 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 16, in the hospital's third floor conference rooms. Free body mass index, body fat, pulmonary function and blood pressure screenings will be available, as well as pocket EKG cards for $15, lipid profiles for $10 and blood glucose tests for $5. Fasting is required 12-14 hours in advance of the lipid profiles. Water and prescribed medications may be consumed. Registration is not required.
Learn more about risk factors
Lake Regional Health System will host the free informational forum, "Heart Attacks and Risk Factors," at 10 a.m. Friday, Feb. 15, in the hospital's third floor conference rooms. Presented by Cardiologist Zubair Khan, M.D., FACC, the forum will educate participants on how to recognize, treat and prevent a heart attack. Register online at lakeregional.com/events or call 348-8222.